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The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone

We name the best pinhole photography app for your iphone.

| iOS Apps

Pinhole photography is the art of taking a photo without a lens. Instead a tiny hole in the front of the camera forms the image. It was this type of image formation that was behind the invention of photography and it's still used today for its creative angle.

Even the latest technology built into camera phones can be used to create pinhole pictures. Ok the effect is simulated, but it's still fun. Here we look at the iphone options and tell you which is best.

Go to the App Store and search for pinhole camera and you will currently see four options:
The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: pinhole photography apps for the iPhone

  • IA Pinhole Camera
  • Urbian Inc Retro Camera Plus
  • Lol. Software Pinhole Camerapp
  • Goozenlab Pinhole Calc

We'll look at each of these in a little more detail and suggest which one you should download.

IA Pinhole Camera - £0.59

This dedicated pinhole camera app  claims to deliver an authentic pinhole camera effect. Well you certainly get a dreamy feel, and vignetting around the edges, but the results are too clean to be true pinhole effect. That said it is a good effect and for 59p will add to your iphone's arsenal of camera options.

There's plenty of fun to be had using the double exposure feature that recreates those accidental pictures taken with Instamatics where the film wind-on mechanism jammed. You can also select from three types of film: colour, ex colour (exaggerated?) and black & white.

Photos can be viewed, emailed or posted to facebook from the app's gallery page.

It features simple but effect graphics and is easy to use.

The view recorded is not the same as seen in the camera window (viewfinder) so you end up with oddly composed photos. The randomness means you get compositions you wouldn't normally take  adding to the experimental nature, but I'd prefer an accurate finder. 
    The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: Pinhole Camera for iPhone

The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: photo taken with pinhole camera app




Urbian Inc Retro Camera Plus - free

This is a cool camera app with a choice of five retro camera styles, each having a choice of colour or black & white.

You have The Barbl that simulates an East German 50s camera with medium contrast,  low saturation and an image lift style textured border.

There's the Russian Little Orange Box. This delivers a photo with high contrast, increased saturation and a reddish cross-processed colour cast. The image appears scratched and the border is ragged.

Next there's the Xolaroid 2000 based on a 70s Polaroid. Gives the classic SX-70 style clean border with a glossy feel and a slight blue green colour cast and high contrast.

Next, for the purpose of this review is the Pinhole camera. It's low saturation and medium to high contrast, with a 35mm film border and bleed into the rebates. It's got a slight pinhole effect and while interesting is still not great at simulating the real thing.

Finally is the FudgeCan with its low saturation and medium contrast and simple black border.

It's a free app so you have nothing to lose giving it a trial run, but it does have an animated banner advert on every screen.
    The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: retro camera iphone app

The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: retro camera iphone app

The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: photo taken with pinhole camera app





LoL Software Pinhole Camera - £0.59

This out of the apps used so far looks the most promising. Its interface talks of pinhole size and has a 4 step adjustment between 1/100 and 9/100 of an inch which is a true sign we know the developer understands the principles of  pinhole photography. There's also a simulated exposure time setting in four steps from 1 to 60 seconds.

So good to look at but what about the results? Sadly that's where the fun ends. The picture taken is presented through a circular frame that looks like the view through the Titanic's third class window. 
The image in the middle does have a good feel, but not as pinhole realistic as we would like.

Once again it's a fun app to play with but we need a full frame option. Hopefully the developers will add that as an upgrade.
    The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: LoL Pinhole Camera for iPhone

The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: photo taken with pinhole camera app





Goozenlab Pinhole Calc - free

Well this one slipped through as it's not a camera, but a calculator used to help with the real thing. So we won't include it in the rating, but will provide an explanation.

Pinhole cameras have very small apertures to work well. This calculator is a set of numbers programmed in to indicate what angle of view the pinhole will have at a given focal length and film format. It also indicates the aperture.

In this screengrab you can see I've set 24mm as the desired lens on 35mm format, which means I need a pinhole of f80.1 which will give an angle of view of 84.1deg.

All very well but have you tried making an f/80.1 hole? No? Most of us guess when sticking the super thin needle into the card or foil. This ones for the specialists or those who like playing with apps with sliders and numbers.

As a feature improvement they need to add a blue dot inside the selected format and focal length buttons so you can see what you've set. I think the programmers probably intended that and there may be a bug.
    The best Pinhole Photography app for the iPhone: Pinhole Calculator for iPhone




Pinhole Camera iPhone Apps: Verdict

So with only three pinhole camera options currently available and World Pinhole Photography day coming up on 24 April (2011) I was hoping to use one of these apps to take my pinhole photo for the day. Sadly I don't think any of these options currently delivers anything remotely like a real pinhole pic. So app developers it's back to the drawing board, and I'll be reverting back to my SLR with pinhole plate from The Pinhole Factory.

As for which is best? The Retro camera gives the most flexible range of features, and it's free so what are you waiting for - give it a go.

Take a look at our top 10 Best iPhone apps for a Landscape Photographer article.

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